'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday November 14, 2008
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guest: Chris Kofinis, Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe, Jon Meacham, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
"Senator Clinton isn't just being considered for secretary of state, she may have been offered secretary of state," so reports the "Huffington Post." Our Andrea Mitchell reports, "If there was an offer, it was implicit and contingent," and only the first part of the process of secret meetings, unidentified SUV mini-motorcades exiting parking garages, and the request for time to consider Obama's offer.
And the junior senator from New York's big news conference today about planes, trains, and automobiles?
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I'm happy there is so much press attention and interest in transit.
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OLBERMANN: The news of the day, could this possibly be true - with Richard Wolffe. The political implications, blowback from the left could be fierce, what about her remarks about Iran - with Jon Meacham. And what happen to the airtight, no leaks Obama transition - with Craig Crawford.
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CLINTON: I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration and I'm going to respect his process.
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OLBERMANN: Somebody sure as heck has. The Obama meeting that is on the record, the president-elect and Senator McCain. And they are not going to be talking about the Georgia Senate runoff. Fact or fiction meets Oddball.
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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: As long as I can have the panda, I'm fine.
JON STEWART, TV TALK SHOW HOST: All right.
O'REILLY: All right, but I'm telling you.
STEWART: That's not a panda.
O'REILLY: Sure it is. This is a panda. What do you think it is?
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OLBERMANN: Uh-oh. And, Worsts: John McCain's campaign manager admits nobody prepared for Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric because they thought it would be softer, because she was being interviewed by a woman. And if that isn't GOP condescending, patronizing sexism in a nutshell, I don't know what is. All that and the breaking news of the reported offer to Hillary Clinton to become secretary of state: Now on Countdown. (on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, November 14th, 67 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. "The job is hers if she wants it," reports ABC News. President-elect Barack Obama offered Senator Hillary Clinton the position of secretary of state, reports the "Huffington Post." "But any offer," reports our Andrea Mitchell, "was implicit, not explicit." And what we now know was a meeting yesterday in Chicago between the president-elect and the junior senator from New York was only the start of a process. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Everybody today has used this historical reference, I invoked it last night, "If turning to your rival for a critical cabinet position worked for an incoming from Illinois in 1860, it might work for another incoming president from Illinois in 2008." Before tonight's reports, Senator Clinton today acknowledged speculation, as evidence by the large amount of press at a local event in Albany, New York. But without ever addressing directly whether she is up for the spot of America's top diplomat, Senator Clinton was nevertheless diplomatic.
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CLINTON: I'm very happy there is so much press attention and interest in transit.
CLINTON: Especially guesses about my own. But, in the off chance that you are not here for this important issue, and are here for some other reason, let me just say that I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration.
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OLBERMANN: Multiple resources reporting in the last 24 hours that a number of Obama advisors like the Clinton pick option, Politico naming former Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daly for reasons including her global stature and her experience dealing with the heads of states since the early '90s. CBS News reported tonight that Obama has also met with former U.N. ambassador, now a New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, about the post. Among the concerns about a Secretary of State Clinton, Bill Clinton would likely have to open his financial records to disclose any transactions with foreign powers as part of his wife's vetting process for the post. And who would lead diplomacy in the Obama presidency, Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden or the president himself? Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, "Newsweek" magazine's senior White House correspondent. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Assemble all of this together, what's the best understanding of where this thing stands right now?
WOLFFE: Well, let's just start from the premise that 90 percent of what we hear and read about the transition is uninformed speculation. So, we're in the 10 percent of informed speculation but it's still speculation. Here's what we know - obviously, they met. My transition sources and Obama aides tell me that, yes, indeed the president-elect is taken with this idea of team of rivals. He's looking for a very strong voice for secretary of state. He knows that voice needs to be able to balance out Joe Biden, who's another strong voice on foreign policy, as well as the president-elect himself. They are looking for diversity both women, Latinos, African-Americans, across the board there. So, she checks one box. But there's also this idea that Hillary Clinton does deserve a big job and Clinton herself, looking at the healthcare issues in Congress may be sidelined because of seniority questions. So, this does take you to the point where Hillary Clinton and Obama have talked about secretary of state. But, has he made an offer? Has he not? We just don't know. That's we're in the 10 percent of uninformed speculation again.
OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell first reported this and Chuck Todd is now reporting this at this hour, Richard, that the Richardson meeting that was referred to by CBS did, in fact, take place. And it was about secretary of state as well. From that, do we - do we again infer that this thing is still open or could a decision or an offer have been made implicitly, explicitly, or any other kind of icitly and then Richardson be interviewed as a courtesy?
WOLFFE: You know, because of the first pick, the Rahm Emanuel announcement, the transition has been wary about making offers and having them leaked out because nobody wants to be the second choice. No one wants to be the person who picks up a job that someone else declined. So, I don't know that we can be sure that these people are talking about the same jobs. Clearly, the Obama folks are greatly indebted to Bill Richardson for his role during the primaries, that very well-timed endorsement that he made. They're also indebted to Hillary Clinton for her work through the general election. So, I don't know that we can say for sure that these are about the same jobs. But I would expect both of them to have a prominent role in an Obama cabinet.
OLBERMANN: And to that point, Marc Ambinder at "The Atlantic" reported, only Obama and Clinton were in the meeting in Chicago yesterday. Is it possible that it's two people talking about the same thing, only they saw it differently that the post was discussed, that he did not make an offer, he stopped short of that, and maybe the two of them emerged with slightly different views of whether or not it had been an offer?
WOLFFE: I would be really surprised about a confusion there, because if you think back to the faithful meeting at Dianne Feinstein's house at the end of the primary process, both sides claim to have come away with a different understanding of what the discussion was. I think, both sides are going to be very explicit and very careful here that these conversations are clear and that both sides leave that meeting knowing what was discussed.
OLBERMANN: Is Bill Clinton actually a factor in this? Would his global initiative, to say nothing of business dealings, speaking engagements and such mitigate against the prospect of Senator Clinton's qualities as a secretary of state?
WOLFFE: Well, President Clinton was a big factor in why Hillary Clinton was not ultimately vetted or really considered seriously for the position of the vice presidential pick. It's true that the vetting process while onerous right now is not as rigorous as it is for a veep pick. But there are questions about his relationships to the foreign governments, the donations to the library and foundation. And so, I would expect them to come up. But, remember, he doesn't have to open the books in the same way as if he was effectively on the ticket.
OLBERMANN: And the other concern that Andrea mentioned besides President Clinton, Obama is by no means a veteran of international diplomacy but he is the symbol of this reborn America from the international viewpoint, clearly, if you have Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, you have Vice President Biden who's international experience probably would exceed the first two, who is running that candy store?
WOLFFE: Well, the Obama folks say, no question, President Obama has the mandate. Remember that the Clintons and Joe Biden get on famously well. And also, the Clintons have their own star power that's popular around the world. But this is President-elect Obama's show and it doesn't matter who the team of rivals are, there is only one man at the top there.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, political analyst for us - great thanks as always for your time. Have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As we just mentioned, Senator Clinton would have to sublimate whatever remaining political aspirations she harbors to the cause of diplomacy, specifically, Obama diplomacy. No more leading the charge for her vision of healthcare reform from the Senate floor, no more building alliances with other politicians by helping them fundraise as she is still doing, no more regular contact with the millions of supporters on the e-mail list her campaign built. And then there are the political landmines both Obama and Clinton would have to negotiate in making any offer, if made (ph) the offer was, or in accepting it or even in declining it. So, let's turn to Jon Meacham, the editor of "Newsweek," author of "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House."
Jon, good evening.
JON MEACHAM, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If he hasn't offered this to her, how much trouble is the reporting of this as he has offered it to her or nearly thus - how much trouble is that going to be?
MEACHAM: I think it would be landmark in Obamaland. "No Drama Obama," they've done extremely well. You know, all of us who talk about these things and think about them set up various obstacles for Obama throughout the campaign. He's gotten over all of them. He's avoided all traps. The Biden news happened without leaks. And I would be very surprised if Senator Clinton, (A), Senator Clinton would joke about it, and without it having happened, and (B), I think the Obama folks would have knocked this down pretty strongly if it were not a live possibility.
OLBERMANN: Yes, there was a nine-word comment from Tom Wheeler (ph) yesterday that we don't comment on speculation. That's been all of it.
OLBERMANN: As this thing broke last night, there was a lot of simple disbelief about this from those who saw Senator Clinton as a divisive figure last spring or have not warmed up to her, whatever you want to characterize those folks as. How much blowback might the president-elect face just for going this far let alone going the final measure?
MEACHAM: Well, I think 52 percent gives you a lot of leeway. Once you win, you can basically look magnanimous and be magnanimous. I think that, certainly, there will be some grumbling, but in an interesting way, Senator Clinton, in my view, would have a much more independent power base as the junior from New York with a global profile than she will as the secretary of state. So, one could argue within the intricacies of politics that this is a way to maximize and leverage her talents while removing her as a voice of opposition.
OLBERMANN: Well, to that point, is it too crass to suggest that Obama might be considering more than her international credentials here? I mean, is this - let's see how I can phrase this - to make sure she is expressing herself in the tent rather than expressing herself out of the tent, into the tent - or you know, listening to Michael Corleone online, "Keep your friends close, your enemies closer"?
MEACHAM: I think there's a lot of that. And I don't think President Johnson put it quite that way about expressing oneself. But she, you know, she is a formidable politician. She would be someone who, again, becomes, as we were talking about, controllable. But if I were her, the first question I would want to know is what's Joe Biden going to be doing, and who's the national security advisor. We all know this history. Kissinger, Rogers. We know that there can be moments where the White House completely runs foreign policy. And secretaries of state feel as though they are kind of glorified glad handlers. So, if I were her, it's a little bit like Ford and Reagan in Detroit in 1980, I would want a piece of paper saying, here's what Biden, here's what I'm going to do, here is what national security advisor is going to do. In this job interview, if I were Senator Clinton, I would be asking more questions maybe than President-elect Obama would be.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly what Andrea Mitchell was reporting today, that that is - her foremost concern is where is Joe Biden in the batting lineup and where is she, and where is the president who's international figure, the president-elect, now. And to that, if this really is her job to take it or leave it, it's her job as she wants it as Jake Tapper put on ABC tonight, what happens politically if she goes through all those questions that you just raised and says, "I don't want it"? I mean, do you get to turn this president down under these circumstances and remain a powerful figure?
MEACHAM: I think that's a terrific question. And I'm not sure what the answer is. I think you can always say, "No." And we've learned that basically Senator Clinton is very much an independent operator. Although there is the old tradition in Washington, if a president asks you to serve, you should do it. And, again, my sense is, she would not have made that joke, if her heart wasn't - if in fact all this is true, as you were talking to Richard. I don't think she'd be joshing around about it if she weren't thinking about doing it. It also plays into her, you know, ongoing remarkable story. Whether you agree or disagree with Hillary Clinton, she has built a remarkable career of public service here and this would be an interesting next step.
OLBERMANN: It is a killer of a job. Four years is basically two terms as secretary of state. What - would she be looking at this as the conclusion for her political career or do you not factor that in at all?
MEACHEM: I don't because I think one thing we've learned in the last 12 years or so, eight years or so, 12, 16, actually, of the American political history is the Clintons are never over.
MEACHAM: The Clinton story is one - you know, we've all killed a lot of trees with the political obituaries of the Clintons. So, I think she would have to really think, would she enjoy and be useful in the job day-to-day. Sometimes, we get wrapped up in talking about the politics and the in and the out, the inside baseball. There is the simple human factor of - would she enjoy this work? It is an incredibly difficult hour. I would argue it's as complicated as 1968 when Vietnam was raging. Maybe more so, in some ways. And so, would this be something that she felt she could make a good contribution doing. And I think the other issue is President Clinton. And, you know, if he becomes an international envoy, will he finally be working for her.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and as you saw, it is the ongoing saga. You probably will see, no doubt, a bumper sticker soon that reads, "Chelsea Clinton 2028." Jon Meacham, the author of "American Lion," and, of course, editor of "Newsweek" - great thanks for your time, Jon.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Even those least supportive of Senator Clinton, most stiff and shock at this news, eventually regain their bearings, and then realize that there's something more stunning still about this whole story. Did it hit you, yet? Next.
OLBERMANN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she wants it, for a one report, the minimalist reporting on this, President-elect Obama had her come to Chicago to discuss the position in secret. There's still one surprise more in this whole thing. Craig Crawford on that, next. And if you couldn't tell a loofa from a falafel, why would we expect Billo the Clown to be able to tell a bear from a panda?
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The 21-month candidacy of Barack Obama was remarkable in many ways. But for seasoned followers of political campaigns, one thing truly stood out, there were no leaks - none. As one of his senior advisors, who used to carry again that title, "Inside the White House," Valerie Jarrett told "Rolling Stone" magazine, quote, "We aim for you not to know about the inner workings of the campaign because there's not much to know, other than it works." Yet in our fourth story on the Countdown: Barely a week after ascending to a office of president-elect, Obama's tightly-run ship has sprung not one, but multiple leaks all concerning Senator Hillary Clinton's candidacy for secretary of state. It was floated out on Friday morning on ABC News, where Diane Sawyer brought up rumors that Clinton was up for the job and George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton's former communications director confirmed he had been hearing similar things from, quote, "people around the Obama transition team." But last night, when our own Andrea Mitchell confirmed that reporting and placed Senator Hillary Clinton in Chicago yesterday, she cited two Obama advisors as her sources. Later, NBC's Jamie Gangel got more information from a, quote, "source very close to John Kerry" who allegedly had told several close friends in the middle of this week that Senator Clinton was in the mix for the secretary-ship. Then, this morning, the "Associated Press" broke the news that Obama and Clinton had actually met in Chicago on Thursday. Their source was, quote, "a democratic official." By this afternoon, the "Huffington Post" citing two senior Democratic officials reported that Senator Clinton was actually been offered that job. So, to track the story of the story, I'm joined now by our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, of CQPolitics.com.
Craig, thanks for your time. Good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: I'll call in Joe the Plumber for this.
OLBERMANN: Well, he doesn't have a license for this stuff, either.
CRAWFORD: Oh, that's right. I forgot, yes.
OLBERMANN: It would be an easy cliche to pin this whole story on Senator Clinton's people and come up with some sort of long list of nefarious reasons why, but the key part of this is what Andrea reported last night and that didn't come from Senator Clinton's people. What has happened here? Has the Obama campaign actually sprung a leak?
CRAWFORD: It might be an intended leak, not all of them are unintentional or unwanted. One reason could be they want to float it. See how people react, particularly, Obama supporters. Another might be to put some pressure on her, that he really wants her to do it, and put some pressure on her. Or, maybe cut short the negotiation phase. There could be a lot of negotiating going on for this, as you discussed earlier. What Meacham is, you know, she's going to want to talk about appointments for ambassadors and lower levels State Department, what about Biden's job is going to be, national security, all those things. And, maybe get it over with quickly by putting it out there as been offered and she - put the pressure on her to answer and then they don't have a very long negotiation phase perhaps.
OLBERMANN: Well, then, I mean, that next question would be, is there any conclusion to reach other than this, if this did originate with Obama's people - it was leaked deliberately? But then, you have to take it to the next stage - which direction was it aimed at? Was it aim at getting her to accept or getting her to say no?
CRAWFORD: I really don't think they would play the game to put this out here just to get credit for offering it to her, hoping that she wouldn't take it. That could backfire on you. She might actually take it in a situation like that. But I do think that, you know, we talked a lot today about the team of rivals compared with Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abraham Lincoln. And you hear not a lot about Obama. Though, he is looking to do that and this one would be really uncanny because Seward who Lincoln put on his cabinet had been New York senator and had run against Lincoln. It's an oddly, eerily similar situation.
OLBERMANN: Yes, of course, Seward for like a year afterwards was still trying to get Lincoln to step aside and appoint candidate (ph) Seward as president. So, I don't know, if you want to take that analogy to its full extent.
CRAWFORD: All right.
OLBERMANN: But if we're going to go all three-dimensional chess here and try to find some other alternative reason fort this leaking out deliberately, do, you know, do we call up Bill Goldman who wrote, you know, "The Princess Pride" to recreate it (ph)? But you thought that I wouldn't think that you wouldn't think the speech that he wrote for Wallace Shawn. Is there any other, you know, conspiracy theory behind this?
CRAWFORD: Inconceivable, I think, was the line in this.
CRAWFORD: All right. Unfortunately, Gene Roddenberry is dead or we can consult him about three-dimensional chess, from "Star Trek." But, you know, I really do think that the bottom of all of this is Obama is looking for superstars on this cabinet. I think he's looking to put a real eye-popping cabinet together, and the best and the brightest that he can find. And it seems to me, when you're looking all the various candidates, and another reason they might be leaking this, Keith, is to - if he's decided not to pick John Kerry to put that to rest so that Kerry isn't embarrassed by, you know, many more days of speculation and then doesn't get it.
OLBERMANN: Ultimately, is this any barometer for leaks during the actually Obama administration or do we move this into the category of strategic leaks and just leave it at that?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, when you become president, you move from a campaign organization of several hundred people to running a government of 4 million workers and 15,000 around, you appoint yourself, that's a lot of people to try to control. And many presidents have really spent too much time getting paranoid about leaks and trying to control them. I remember Richard Nixon as an example, someone who lost his presidency trying to plug leaks.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. I'm thinking actually who's behind this, is somebody in the campaign or the transition who's a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin because.
CRAWFORD: There you go.
OLBERMANN: . that book is now back up to number one on Amazon in political history, in political and in books about Lincoln. So, there.
CRAWFORD: You got it.
OLBERMANN: I think that's - that's the answer right there.
CRAWFORD: Maybe it's Doris.
OLBERMANN: Your source is Doris Kearns Goodwin. Yes, we'll both here from her, which is fine.
CRAWFORD: Oh, boy.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com and MSNBC - many thanks. And Doris, if you're watching, thanks to you, too. Thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Did President Bush inadvertedly become the new solution to international diplomacy? Did Vladimir Putin change plans because Nicolas Sarkozy said to him, "That is something Bush would do"? And look carefully at your screen. Is that a toy bear or a toy panda? Not the guy with the jowls, the stuffed animal. But, maybe I still have to make myself clear with stuffed animal. What a O'Reilly is holding. He says it's a panda. Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment and the bank robber who says he's filing a complaint against the bank because they didn't have enough cash. On this date in 1948, was born Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, who has, as of this date, been first in line to the British throne for exactly 60 years, which is a long time to wait for your folks to give you the keys. Let's play Oddball. We begin - we begin right here in fun city where Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show" tried to comfort Bill O'Reilly, calming his stated (ph) fears about an Obama presidency with a cup of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and a cuddly stuffed animal. It took a sudden and bizarre right turn when Billo the Clown went all loofa versus falafel on him.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Barack Obama - and I hope he does well, because want -
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: They are still going to let you lead.
Don't worry about it.
O'REILLY: As long as I can have the panda.
STEWART: It's not a panda.
O'REILLY: Sure, it is. This is a panda. What do you think it is?
OLBERMANN: As part of our ongoing commitment to public education, Bill, allow us to tell you what it is. It's a Teddy bear. Notice how it's brown? These are panda bears. They are cute little baby panda bears. Notice how they are largely black and white, maybe sort of cream colored and white. An easy mistake for someone who also thinks America is a center-right country, that there is a war on Christmas, that an Obama presidency is scary, that a falafel and loofa should both be applied to people of the opposite sex. Sure it is. To the latest meeting of the GOP, as they once again convene to figure, in a nice and civilized manner, just who is responsible for last week's disastrous results at the poll. What the Republican party should - and who is in charge? Put the high-heeled shoe down, Government Palin. I guess that flag was the give away. This is actually a brawl that broke out in the Ukrainian Parliament. But we can dream.
Finally, to Paplanta (ph), Mexico. And tie her up, drop her off of the top of a spinning pole and presto, they call it a living may pole. We call it child abuse. See how much fun the kids are having? Don't try this at home kids or with kids.
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OLBERMANN: The president elect's next big meeting, no secret, apparently will contain no job offer. He and John McCain to talk on Monday. It was a talk between Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Sarkozy that may have earned President Bush his place in the language of diplomacy, WWWD, What Would W. Do? These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top there best persons in the world tonight. Number three, best tradition, Abby Elliott, who along with McHale Watkins, was today added to the cast of "Saturday Night Live," effective tomorrow night's show. She's the daughter of the great Chris Elliott, himself a former SNL cast member, and the grand daughter of the great Bob Elliott, of "Bob and Ray," and they starred in a "Saturday Night Live" special in 1979. Three generations of the funny. Number two, best indicator that the Internet will kill us all, Amy Taylor, who has filed for divorce from her husband David Pollard. They met in a chat room and were married both for real and in the fantasy game "Second Life." But now she has discovered that Mr. Pollard's virtual alter-ego, his avatar, was having an affair with another woman's virtual alter-ego in the game "Second Life," so she is divorcing him. How did she discover it? In the "Second Life" game, she hired a detective to follow her virtual husband. "Second Life?" Why not call it get a life. And number one, best dumb criminal, an unnamed 48-year-old would be bank robber in Springitsburg (ph) Township, Pennsylvania, went into the Susquehanna bank early yesterday morning. Went up to a teller, demanded money. The teller fainted. So he went to the next teller and she opened her till to reveal it was empty. So he went to the third teller, thinking, no doubt, what am I, Goldilocks? She opens up her cash drawer and it too has no money in it. The guy is totally flummoxed and decides enough is enough. He splits, yelling at the tellers as he exited. They caught him ten blocks away. I'm guessing he might have still been yelling. What he actually did yell at the tellers that he was going to file a complaint with the management of the bank because the tellers didn't have any cash.
OLBERMANN: Something tonight to harp upon while you try to rebalance your inner ear after the Secretary of State Clinton news. Our third story in the Countdown, President-Elect Obama today announcing he will meet with Senator John McCain this Monday, just 13 days after their election at transition headquarters in Chicago. Oh, boy, what job is he going to give him? It's not just for show. The ex-opponents, who have not spoken since election night, but did so cordially, may yet be pitted against one another in the Georgia Senate run off, set to talk about how to make government more effective and efficient, according to the Obama camp. Joining them, McCain friends Senator Lindsay Graham and the incoming Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Those two, as you may recall, represent their respective candidates in hammering out the rules for the three presidential debates. On that note, let's bring in Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Chris, good evening.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: McCain, what the heck does this guy want?
KOFINIS: I think two words, legacy repair. This was a pretty nasty campaign on the McCain campaign's behalf. The last thing he wants history to remember him as is a candidate that basically attacked then Senator Obama in a vicious, untoward way. So my guess is he's trying to figure out, how do I basically repair my legacy, repair my image? And, to some expect, you'll see, I think - or hear about a conversation that probably lays down areas where they have common interests. That's what this is about for John McCain.
OLBERMANN: Is there some actual bipartisanship possible here? Or is it just the symbolism? Or might just the symbolism be enough?
KOFINIS: Well, the symbolism, to some extent, may be enough. In terms of whether this is symbolism or real, it's a bit of both. At the end of these campaigns, you tend to have what I call these Kumbaya moments between rivals. I think this one is a little bit different, at least I hope it's a little bit different. It may be kind of an inkling of a greater division in the Republican party. You know, there's a serious debate in the Republican party going on as to what kind of party they are going to be, philosophically and otherwise. I think you are going to see a wing willing to work with President-Elect and President Obama, in terms of coming up with constructive solutions to the serious problems and crises that the country faces. And there are going to be others that want to play these partisan games. I think the question is, what side John McCain wants to fall on. I think, this is a meeting that's going to hopefully bring him over to the side to be a constructive force, let's move this country together. And that will be beneficial for all of us.
OLBERMANN: We've heard for months about the possibility of Republicans in the Obama hierarchy, maybe in the cabinet. If Obama is planning to do that - we're not talking about McCain to become secretary of the state, just to pick a title out of the hat, but would Obama approach McCain as the most recent titular head of the GOP, or at least its presidential candidate, to discuss this prospect first? Would it be kind of like one group to the other overture?
KOFINIS: I think that probably would be an area of discussion. What Republicans would you recommend be part of my cabinet? I think that ends up being a relatively small part of the discussion. I actually think - my gut tells me, this has to do with the real politics of governing rather than the cabinet make up. The reality here of the situation is, if you look at the Senate - and that's where we really have to look at - the likelihood that the Democrats reach 60 is relatively slim, not impossible, but not likely. So, in that case, you are going to need Republicans to help you pass policy through. In terms of John McCain, he is a guy who at various times during his career, as we all know, has been a maverick. So, bringing him over to your side, at least on particular issues, and then using him as well to reach out to other Republicans, will be very beneficial, because you need to act quickly. And what we have seen from the Obama campaign is a desire to hit the ground running once they are sworn in. To that extent, working with McCain is a positive, if he can be a beneficial force.
OLBERMANN: This other point here, Lindsay Graham said of Rahm Emanuel, quote, I worked with him closely during the presidential debate negotiations, which were completed in record time. When we had a rough spot, he always looked for a path forward. I consider Rahm to be a friend and a colleague. Are they there as witnesses or did they bring these guys together? Or is there anything else we can infer from their presence at this meeting?
KOFINIS: Well, my guess is they brought them together. They are also witnesses. You want to have your adviser there to basically make sure, in terms of what is being said, so that there are no differences once that meeting ends. The other part of this is both of these advisers have an agenda, which is help their candidate. In this case, whether it's President-Elect Obama or Senator McCain, help that person, that individual move forward in a positive direction. That's what's going to be interesting to see. The story that's going to be fascinating to watch in the next months and years is how these two former rivals work together.
OLBERMANN: Indeed, it will be. Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, always a great pleasure. Thank you. Have a good weekend.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith. You too.
OLBERMANN: The quote, that's what Bush would do. The president may have finally found his international role, as a warning from one leader to another, don't do that. And how could a major newspaper metropolitan newspaper print a letter from an ex-service man implying his fellow former soldiers should be ready to fight against the U.S. government? That's called sedition, and it's ahead in worst persons. But first, because they're not going to go away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed. Number there, Blackwater-gate. The Associated Press reporting that federal prosecutors have now drafted indictments against six Blackwater mercenaries who shot up a busy intersection in Baghdad in September of 2007, killing 17 civilians. Unclear what will happen now. Blackwater will claim immunity for its people. The AP reports there will be no discussion on assault versus man slaughter for another month. Worst of all, there appears to be no way to hold the company as a whole responsible. Number two, bailout-gate. The Federal Deposit Insurance Company has, by itself, without the approval of its masters in the Bush administration, posted on its own website a proposal to take 24 billion dollars out of the bailout and use it directly to prevent 1.5 million American households from facing mortgage foreclosure. Treasury Secretary Paulson just this week said he was rejecting that idea. The bailout is such a disaster that the FDIC is now publicly contradicting the treasury of the secretary. That's the Letterman joke, the secretary of the treasury. Say it with me now, today we call it a bailout. Tomorrow, we'll call it the reason daddy went to jail. Number one, Siegelman-gate. "Time Magazine" revealing new documents that relate to the imprisonment of the former governor of Alabama, the Democrat Don Siegelman. They make even more plain the political corruption of that prosecution. The local U.S. attorney, Laura Canary (ph), supposedly recused herself from the case in 2002 because her husband was a top GOP flunky closely tied to Karl Rove. Three years later, after the recusal, on September 19, 2005, Miss Canary was still e-mailing the senior prosecutors still working on the case. Canary sent a three-page commentary by Siegelman to the prosecutors with her note that read, "y'all need to read because he refers to a survey which allegedly shows 67 percent of Alabamans believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated. Perhaps this is grounds not to let Siegelman discuss court activities in the media," exclamation point. Months later, the prosecutors did indeed do exactly that. They petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from discussing his contention that his prosecution was at all political. Later, they argued that his prison sentence should be lengthened because he made such remarks. It's unclear just how Laura Canary's statements might affect any prison sentence she winds up with.
OLBERMANN: The newest philosophical question worked into international diplomacy. WWWD, What Would W Do? One foreign leader supposedly convinces the other to do the opposite. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world. The bronze to Bill-O the Clown. As suggested by his inability to tell a toy panda from a toy bear, the sensory apparatus seems to be breaking down on the model 15-C Bill-O-Matic. "The debate over gay marriage is now a full-fledged national battle. As Talking Points said last night, the election of Barack Obama has emboldened secular progressives who feel it's their time. Gay marriage just the beginning. Other cultural war issues will also be on display shortly. These include limited gun possession, legalizing narcotics, unrestricted abortion and the revocation of the Patriot Act." Bill, this debate over gay marriage, Prop 8 in California, this was started by the religious right, along with the support of enablers like you. And you all started it quite a long time before Obama was the front-runner, let alone the nominee or the president-elect. If it blows back on you and costs you any of your precious phony baloney culture war issues, or if it costs the Mormon Church its tax exempt status, you will have no one to blame but yourself. Runner up Rick Davis, erstwhile campaign manager for John McCain. Our old pal, the deep breathing Rich Lowry interviews him for "The National Review," and quotes Davis as follows, on Sarah Palin's disastrous interview with Katie Couric: "she was under the impression the Couric thing was going to be easier than it was. Everyone's guard was down for the Couric interview." Lowry also paraphrases Davis as adding - these are Lowry's words, "the Couric interview, which Davis says Palin thought would be softer because she was being interviewed by a woman." Seriously. So far from all of you being wrong about that, you are also sexist, condescending, pandering, patronizing and trying to find your vice presidential candidate a soft interview on a national broadcast TV network. But our winners, a mister Dick Scharf (ph) of Coronado, California, who wrote the following letter to the editor, which was published by his co-winner, the "San Diego Union Tribune." Quote, "veterans, active duty, retired military, alarm, alarm. President-Elect Obama is proposing a national security force with allegiance, paid benefits provided by the executive branch to him. Come on, some really bad guys have tried that in the past and we know where that went. Not while I draw a breath." Mr. Scharf, if you are that paranoid over Obama seeking to expand the Peace Corp and the USA Freedom Corps, which was created by George W. Bush, then the oxygen is already not getting through. So threatening to hold your breath is not going to affect you, nor the rest of us. But this incitement in there to some kind of military rebellion, violent overthrow kind thing of the, you know, lawfully elected government of the United States, that's kind of illegal. The "San Diego Union Tribune" newspaper should not have printed it, and should be correcting the fact that they did. Dick Scharf of Coronado, California and the "San Diego Union Tribune," today's worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: Via an appropriately twisted root, it turns out that President Bush could bring peace in our time, because, in our number one story on the Countdown, we have evidence that one foreign leader reigned in another foreign leader by pointing to the example set by our president and warning of the consequences if that example were actually to be repeated. President Bush today welcomed the Group of 20, heads of state representing 90 percent of the world's economy, a two-day summit on the global economic crisis. Meantime, the "London Times" disclosed a telling conversation between the President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from August 12th. It was four days after Russia had invaded the Republic of Georgia with Russian tanks, just 30 miles from the capital, Tblisi. Obviously, there's been later reporting that perhaps Georgia provoked all this. In any event, Mr. Sarkozy in Moscow to broker a cease fire told the Russian prime minister the world would not countenance the overthrow of the Georgian government. According to Sarkozy's chief diplomatic adviser, Mr. Putin scoffed, describing what he would do to the Georgian president. Quoting him here, "I am going to hang Saakashvilli by the balls," unquote. Mr. Sarkozy thought he had misheard, according to the Times. "Hang him," he asked. "Why not," Putin answered. "The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein." That's where the evidently deft President Sarkozy found his Gallic opening. "Yes," he said, "but do you want to end up like Bush." Mr. Putin was said to be momentarily silent and then replied, "Ah, you have scored a point there." The story serves as another reminder that when President Bush supposedly looked into Putin's soul back in 2001, he was fooled. Let's bring in the associate editor and columnist of the "Washington Post," MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. Eugene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good to talk to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Has President Sarkozy stumbled over the golden egg of diplomatic persuasion, WWWD, What Would W. Do, and do the opposite?
ROBINSON: I don't know if that would work going forward. What fascinates me is, do these guys really talk like that?
OLBERMANN: Yes, yes, yes.
ROBINSON: Don't put that bug in your mouth, you'll look like Joey. You don't want to end up looking like Joey. It's like a grade school thing almost, the way they talk to each other. It's an amazing conversation and does speak to the impact President Bush has had on modern diplomacy.
OLBERMANN: Never mind that, but also the exchange, as it was reported by the envoy, which was, "yes, but do you want to end up like Bush?" And the answer, "ah, you have scored a point there." This could be - I don't know who from the - it could be Bismarck talking to somebody, Louis Napoleon. I may have years wrong. You know what I'm saying.
OLBERMANN: Even an anecdote is stilted.
ROBINSON: Disraeli countered, "but, do you want to end up looking like Bush."
OLBERMANN: That depends on whether I embrace your principles or your I don't know.
ROBINSON: We won't go there.
OLBERMANN: The president - back in this century, the president hosts the G-20 this weekend. Is there much of anything he can do to buff up his world image as he's heading for the door?
ROBINSON: No. His world image is what it is, and is what it is going to be for the foreseeable future. He is convinced that history will vindicate him. I don't know if you or I will be around to see that day. I tend to doubt that I will. He firmly believes that. It's certainly not going to improve in the near future, that's for sure. He's not going to have any big impact. He's the lamest of lame ducks, let's be honest.
OLBERMANN: The British Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, recently said that Obama's election had changed people's views of America internationally. It's an obvious point, obviously. How true can it be because of the Bush baggage? How much of that sort of sits in the room with Obama no matter how glittering he might appear to our international friends?
ROBINSON: It actually does change America's image substantially among many populations in the world, some world leaders, too. There are entire diplomatic corps that had a problem with the Bush administration and its approach to diplomacy and its approach to world affairs. But the bigger impact is on the streets, not just the streets of Paris and Berlin, but the streets of Rabat and Beirut and many cities around the world. There's an opportunity there. When you get down to national interest questions, when government perceive something in their national interest, in that instance, it doesn't matter whether it's George Bush or Barack Obama, if they decide they needs to be obstreperous about something, they will continue to be obstreperous.
OLBERMANN: The "New York Times" reported that the foreign heads of state have done more than congratulating president-elect, that they're trying to engage him already on policy. The lake duckness you described, is he beyond lame duck, because the rest of the world is trying to march without him?
ROBINSON: What's disturbing, I think, frankly, to a lot of other world leaders is the sense that he's kind of tuned out. It's not just circumstances that made him a lame duck. But the question is, are there any initiatives yet to come out of the Bush administration? The answer probably is no. So, I think, these other world leaders realize they can't do anything with the president-elect. But they can start laying the ground work and get ready to go after the inauguration.
OLBERMANN: You have made a point there. Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post," the diplomatic corps and MSNBC. Thanks, Gene, have a good weekend.
ROBINSON: Au revoir.
OLBERMANN: Au revoir. That's Countdown for this 2,025th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END